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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Personal Finance

Posted by in News

Where to Put Your Investments
Part 1:  The Investor’s Dilemma

May 4, 2016

By:  J. André Weisbrod

SUMMARY

  • Global economies are shaky with some bright spots, but with many problem economies.

  • The U.S. economy is sluggish, though still growing.

  • Interest rates are near historical lows and will probably rise over the coming years.

  • Inflation has increased in spite of low gas prices.  Inflation and interest rates are generally linked over long periods of time.

  • Rising interest rates cause the value of bonds to go down.  A rise of 2 percentage points could result in longer term bonds losing as much as 20% of their value.  That is stock market kind of risk.

  • There are few places to place investments that have a good probability of offering a “real return” above inflation and taxes over the next 10 years.

  • This fact has helped support the stock and real estate markets.  Other than companies and real estate, there is nowhere else to put your money that can make you a real return.

  • However, stock markets are looking shaky and showing signs of another retreat after recovering from the early 2016 drop.  Values have risen and now earnings and revenues appear to be slowing.

  • Long term, it is unlikely that you will make a sufficient real return above inflation and taxes unless you have a significant portion of your investment capital in stocks and real estate.

  • Therefore your stock and real estate allocations and the management of them are critical.

Consider a retiree’s challenge.  If inflation

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Posted by in News

On December 31 Andre Weisbrod discussed the 2015 markets and commented on the New Year.   For some reason the second segment has not yet been posted.  Look for his detailed evaluation blog later today. 

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Posted by in News

January 5, 2015

Dear Clients and Friends,

2014 was an interesting year economically:  Here are some items that affected us all directly or indirectly.

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) went into effect.  It's an amalgam of good and bad, but it is probably here to stay.  It won't be as bad as the naysayers say, and it won't be as good as the Obama administration would like you to believe.  It's just a shame Washington is so broken that few if any can simply ask the question, "What will work best?" and plan it out together.  And while we were trying to provide insurance for more people, we left our veterans out to dry at the Veterans Administration hospitals.   We have worked with many of you to help you make the best choices regarding your health care and will continue to do so in 2015.

Most Americans expressed in polls a low view of our elected representatives and the mid-term elections clearly showed the public's dissatisfaction.  But will Washington listen?  In investments we disclaim that past performance does not necessarily indicate future results.  But in Washington, the past is too often prologue.  If a private for-profit corporation ran its affairs like Washington, it would have been out of business long ago.  And if such a failing company were to be taken over by venture capitalists, the first thing they would do would be to fire all the failures.    

Quantitative Easing Ended. The Federal government continued to borrow/print a lot more money, though it ended the QE (Quantitative Easing) program in the last part of the year.  

Interest rates and inflation remained abnormally and surprisingly low.  We thought rates would be rising by now.  We were wrong.  Government manipulation is a big part of it, but there is also a free market component as we saw with energy prices.  The laws of supply and demand still command the stage.  Hopefully government interventions will not kill the golden goose.

The economy improved.  While it can't be viewed as robust, it did improve enough to offer hope going forward.  Some reputable forecasters predict 3% or better GDP growth for 2015.

The Deficit/GDP Growth trend improved toward the end of the year.  The Question is whether the economy can continue to grow at a pace sufficient to cover the debts.  The jury is still out.  Ultimately, GDP needs to grow faster than debt in most years in order to preserve wealth long term.  It is possible, and I like some of the encouraging numbers, but the recent borrowing binge certainly makes it a higher hill to climb.  We probably need some years of 4% or better growth to adequately right the ship.

Stocks hit all time highs - so what? US Large Company Stocks had a good year.  But Small company stocks did not.  Nor did International stocks.  We think the overall U.S. stock markets are slightly overvalued, but not alarmingly so.  Some overseas markets are undervalued.  While the headlines talked constantly about markets achieving new highs, such hype is at best overly optimistic in sound.  If the markets don't hit new highs on a regular basis we are in trouble.  Markets historically rise 7 years out of ten.    Unless we hit another period like 2000-2009 new highs should be a normal occurrence, even if the markets go up at a below average pace.

Oil prices got hammered to an extent not anticipated by any of the experts we know.   We did not see this coming.  Nor do we know of any experts that we follow who predicted such a crash in oil prices.  Portfolios that include a decent weighting to energy got hurt at the end of 2014.  We think much of the sector's decline is overkill and therefore we see long term value in holding on and even adding to some positions.  We think oil prices are likely to rise back to the $80-85 area before the end of 2015.  Overall the price decline should help the economy unless prices remain too low too long.

China officially became the largest economy in the world.  And according to the Economist, "the aggregate purchasing power of the ‘E7’ emerging economies – Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia and Turkey – will overtake that of the G7 by 2030. By 2015, Asia Pacific will have a larger middle class than Europe and North America combined. And the global emerging middle class will represent an annual market of some US $6 trillion by 2021. Such trends and tipping-points mean the traditional way of classifying economies is becoming increasingly irrelevant." (Source: the Economist, Shift in Global Economic Power, by Silas Young)  Even though International investments had a relatively poor year, we continue to believe that global diversification will be important to investors' health.  We will be looking at which countries might stand to do best in 2015.   

The Dollar strengthened.  Another surprise was the degree toward which the dollar strengthened against t other currencies.  This contributed to the International markets’ subpar performance when converted to U.S. dollars.

Table A: 2014 Index Returns

Cash (3 Mo. T-Bills)

0.0%

Barclay's 1-5 Yr Gov't/Credit Bonds

1.4%

S&P 500 (Large U.S. Stocks)

13.7%

Russell 2000 (Small U.S. Stocks)

4.9%

EAFE (International Stocks)

-4.9%

Average (Balanced Portfolio)

3.0%

Market performance was mixed.  The S&P 500 large U.S. company stock index got all the headlines, with a total return of over 13%, but a broadly diversified portfolio would have performed in single digits.  Unfortunately when one index steals the show, investor expectations can be altered unrealistically.  Consider Table A:

If we factor in that the costs of managing money in mutual funds and/or private accounts is typically 1-2%, a reasonable expectation for a balanced portfolio for 2014 would be only a positive 1-4% maximum return depending on actual cash allocations.  If the managers were weighted toward energy or other underperforming sectors a negative return would be very possible.  And anyone making new investments during the year might not have made much or nothing at all depending on the timing of deposits and the actual investment choices.

Most Active Investment Managers trailed the indexes this year.  At the end of November Rueters reported that 85% of active managers of large cap funds were underperforming.  I don’t think that changed much in December.  They mentioned that even some of the most revered and successful managers were having a tough year.  Also in December, Bloomberg reported that many hedge funds were losing money and the largest number of hedge funds had closed since 2009.

One other factor that investors should consider is that indexes such as the S&P 500 are weighted to the largest companies.  For instance, the stock of Apple, which rose 40% in 2014, is the largest holding in the index.  Only ten stocks out of 500 make up nearly 18% of the index.  If just a few of those falter in 2015, the same managers that trailed in 2014 could perform very well by comparison in 2015.

Many STAAR portfolios trailed in 2014.  We have had years where our approach didn't work before.  One was in 1999 when we trailed indices by as much as 10 percentage points if I remember correctly.  That was a year that saw all the "experts" in the media announce that you didn't need advisers or managers... just throw all your money into index funds and throw away the key.  The next ten years the markets lost money while we made money, received 4 and 5 star ratings by Morningstar and were even named a top 15 manager by Kiplinger.

STAAR Financial Advisors was again was listed in Pittsburgh Magazine as a Five-Star Wealth manager.  It also continued as a Better Business Bureau Accredited Business.  We are so thankful for our clients and we continue to strive to serve you with care and integrity.   Remember, if you do well we do well and if you don’t do well neither do we.  Unlike many in the financial services business we are set up to be on your side.   We look forward to our client review meetings beginning in February.

Please look for our scheduling letter that should go out this week.


Thank you for your continued confidence.  We are working diligently on your behalf and hope the New Year brings us all a harvest of fulfillment and satisfaction.

Sincerely,

J. André Weisbrod

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Posted by in News

November 21,2014

Financial & Tax-Saving Actions to Consider before Year End 2014

Please call 412-367-9076 if you have questions or need to act on any of these.

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Posted by in News

October 21, 2014

By J. André Weisbrod

Procrastination Prevents.  Here are some things to seriously consider now if you are…

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Posted by in News

By Dan Busatto

We are just beginning to discover the ramifications of the Affordable Care Act.  Whether you are an employer or an individual looking to solve the health insurance puzzle, read this brief article.

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Posted by in News

States for Retirement, Fuel Efficient Cars, Spotting Deals, 10 Traits to Make You Rich, 10 Scams

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Posted by in News

April 4, 2014: Andre Weisbrod, CEO and chief investing officer at Starr Financial Advisors with $41 million AUM in Pittsburgh, Pa.: I think this market is struggling to retain its momentum. From a historical and common-sense perspective, it is reasonable to expect more than a 5% correction to 

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Posted by in News

Occasionally I come across an article that needs to be shared, and this is one of those.  It is thought provoking and cuts to the truth with some humor while creating a few "ouch" moments for most of us.  Enjoy.

 

77 Reasons Why You're Awful At Managing Money

Morgan Housel 

People usually get better at things over time. We're better farmers, faster runners, safer pilots, and more accurate weather forecasters than we were 50 years ago.

 

But there's something about money that gets the better of us. If you look at the rate of personal bankruptcies, financial crises, bubbles, student loans, debt defaults, and savings rates, I wonder whether people are just as bad at managing money today as they were in previous generations, maybe even worse. It's one of the only areas in life we seem to get progressively dumber at. 

Here are 77 reasons why people are awful at managing money.

Click here to go to the rest of the article: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-youre-awful-at-managing-money-2014-2

 

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Posted by in News

December 2, 2013

A friend sent me a video link (below) that proposes that if everyone just shifted 5% of their buying choices to American-made products, we could generate a million jobs.  It's an interesting video promoting an idea that has been around for decades.  I suggest you watch it now, then come back and I will add some comments.

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Posted by in News

Current News of Interest for Your Finances
September 24, 2013

Economic forecasts, home prices, mortgage rates, the tooth fairy and more.

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Posted by in News

September 17, 2013

As the markets bounced back up over the last two weeks, we were reminded not so much of "irrational exuberance" as we were of shifting winds before a storm.   This market is too news-driven for our taste.  It is also trader-driven, which greatly affects short-term swings.  (To read the full report, click below.  This is for clients and VIP Members only, so you must log in to read.)

Read more... 

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Posted by in News

I have been dong some research on Social Security and was planning on writing an article.  But I found a good primer to which I provide the link (plus other links).  We are an RIA (Registered Investment Adviser) and along with our investment and wealth management services we provide clients with overall planning services.  It is important to have an overhead view of ...

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Posted by in News

July 10, 2013

There has been quite a fuss lately about the rise in long term interest rates.  Just the hint of the Federal Reserve easing up on its actions to keep rates low sent bond markets into turmoil.  But what does it all mean and what does it mean for people who own homes or are thinking of buying homes?

Because  pictures are indeed worth many words, consider the following chart.

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Posted by in News

“Don't tell me where your priorities are... 

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